If you’re planning a trip to Osaka or Japan in general (and you’re not necessarily thinking about heading to the snow for some epic skiing) then I highly recommend you aim for April. Although the season varies each year by region, April is your best bet to see the iconic cherry blossoms in full bloom. Elusive but exquisite, here are my 5 top tips if you’re thinking about visiting Osaka during the season of Sakura:
1. Travel in April
2. Plan a day trip to Osaka Castle
Enjoy the sight of over 4,000 cherry trees planted within the grounds and in the parks that surround the area. You can also purchase an Aquaboat ticket to cruise down the Okawa River (at the rear of Osaka Castle Park) and marvel at the 5,000 or so cherry blossom trees that line its banks.
3. Partake in the tradition of “Hanami” with friends and family
Hanami, which literally translates to “flower viewing”, is so popular in Japan there is actually a standard to which you should comply…
- Purchase a large plastic tarp or picnic rug for everyone to sit on (we purchased ours from Don Quijote)
- Buy an array of gourmet bento boxes from department store food halls (as mentioned in my previous post the Daimaru Department Store food hall is a must)
- BYO chopsticks, plastic cups and a corkscrew if drinking
- Make sure you clean up after yourself and pick up all your rubbish
- A top tip: do not pick the most perfect cherry tree in the park to picnic under…guaranteed you will end up in everyone’s family photo as they clamber around you while you’re eating to capture the perfect shot.
4. Visit the Mint Bureau
Know that for one week every year, (usually between 9 -15 April) the Mint Bureau in the Tenmabashi area (Kita Ward) opens its gates to the general public. With more than 300 trees of over 100 varieties, the blossoms are mostly later blooming, so if you don’t catch the Sakura in their prime in the parks or grounds of Osaka Castle then the Mint is not to be missed.
5. Take cash for the Food Markets
Make sure you’re cashed up to take advantage of the abundance of street food markets along the Okawa River. After you’ve made your way down the cherry tree lined promenade in the Mint allow your senses to be overloaded – it’s a foodie’s delight with tents set up for grabbing as you go or sitting down in one dedicated to “dining in”. Choose from Japanese-style donuts or crepes, sweet potato chips, cucumber skewers, fresh yakitori, stuffed chicken-skins, gyoza, okonomiyaki, sea snails, stir-fry, fresh fruit (decorated the only way the Japanese would think to), toffee apples and soybean sweet-buns amongst the deliciousness.
If you have space after your Hanami picnic be sure to pick up a cherry blossom or “Sakura” flavoured ice-cream from the Aquaboat ticket booth. It’s surprisingly yummy – not too sweet and tastes exactly like what you would imagine cherry blossom to taste like!